Tetramer Awarded DOE Contract to Generate Biodegradable and Renewable Lubricants

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Tetramer has been awarded a DOE Phase I Contract (DE-SC0018751) to generate lubricants made from biodegradable and renewable materials.

Current hydropower facilities employ a variety of electrical and mechanical equipment that necessitate the use of lubricants to ensure efficient operation of said equipment. The lubricants, either oils or greases, aid in reducing friction, dissipating heat, prevent oxidation, and seal of water and debris from vital areas of the equipment. During operation, equipment may be submerged or otherwise come in contact with water, posing a risk of the lubricant leaking into a sensitive environment. The purpose of this SBIR Program is to develop a biodegradable lubricant to replace non-biodegradable lubricants currently utilized in hydropower facilities. Development and deployment of a biodegradable lubricant minimizes the risk of a hazardous chemical spill into a watershed or other sensitive environment.

The goal of this Phase I program is to generate a spectrum of lubricating fluids from biodegradable and renewable materials that can serve as stand-alone products or as components in a formulated system which can address the performance requirements in hydropower and marine lubricants. The general approach to this research is to synthesize a series of lubricants and evaluate their base physical properties to down-select promising candidates for in-depth property analysis, for the targeted commercial application.

In Phase I, a multi-level factorial design will be generated to define the composition of the lubricants and to analyze the effects of said composition on the physical properties of the synthetic lubricant. Prior work has shown that this type of experimental design will generate predictive performance data for all compositions within the boundaries of the design matrix. Lubricants generated during this Phase I program will be analyzed for thermal properties, viscometrics, and wear properties utilizing standard test methods and practices.

The commercial applications and general public benefits of this technology are numerous. The Environmental Protection Agency and the European Ecolabel for Lubricants currently have restrictions in place regarding the use of environmentally acceptable lubricants. Marine lubricants-for commercial vessels and those over 75 feet in length require the use of environmentally acceptable lubricants, so there is a market sector presently in place with few options that satisfy both cost and performance demands. Development of a successful lubricant under this Phase I SBIR would provide the market with a product that meets biodegradability/toxicity requirements while providing cost and performance benefits versus currently utilized environmentally acceptable lubricants. Beyond the current marine market, the development of a cost-effective high performance biodegradable lubricant could have dramatic effects on applications like agriculture, construction, off-road vehicles, and personal watercraft.




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